Deciding on highland cattle

Highland Cow and calfCredit: Allen StonerWe've been thinking about adding some sort of beef cow to our small for some time now, and we finally decided that the Scottish Highland cow was the breed we wanted.  We decided on the scottish highland because they are a hardy breed that does well on grass and scrub brush.  We have plenty of scrub brush and multiflora rose in the underbrush of the woods and figured that highland cattle would be the best way to turn this stuff into something useful.

Highland cattle also tend to be low maintenance and don't require much shelter even in the harshest of weather.  Ideally we plan to fence in various sections of the woods and allow them to clean out some of the underbrush for us.  The woods will provide plenty of shade during the hot summer months.

We started looking for Scottish highland cattle for sale and finally found a heifer cow and calf that we liked.  The seller was willing to locate a transporter, but due to loading issues wound up arriving at our place after dark.  I was a little uncomfortable with this but decided to proceed with accepting delivery, in retrospect I should have held out for a daylight, preferably morning, delivery.


Delivery goes horribly wrong

I thought I had my fence adequately setup, even the gates, but momma quickly made light of my fencing.  I had the two strands of polyrope electric fence a little lower than they should have been and the fence for the gate wasn't fastened as tight as it should have been.  The mother came straight off the trailer and went almost straight through the gate fencing at the opposite edge of the field.

With it being dark we tried to follow them as best we could but we quickly lost them.  At first light the next day we were out looking for them but had no luck locating them.  Since they had just arrived they had not idea where their 'new home' was, so were just wandering the field and woods.

We had a couple different sightings of them over the next two weeks.  It wasn't until one neighbor saw them and knew of someone that could tranquilize them.  They were so skittish at this point that it was about the only option.  I was beginning to get concerned that they may cause an accident or something so was very thankfully that we knew where they were and should soon get them.

Finally, on the second try they were able to tranquilize both and we got them home that evening.  Only this time I was ready with a proper setup.  So far this has been how NOT to bring a cow home.

How to properly take delivery of you new cows

When we were confident that we would be getting the highland cows back I went out and purchased six 12 foot gates.  This does not make an overly large holding area, but I plan to only keep them in it for a couple days.  This holding time will be for them to get used to the sights and sounds around our place.  I'll also use this time to remind them to respect an electric fence.

I have some lighter gates, and along with the electric fence I will use them to extend the corral.  This will give them a little more area to roam and I'll be able to judge how they may react to release into the  larger pasture.  The corral is setup inside a no climb fence with a couple strands of electric fence on the inside.  There is a beautiful stand of grass in the pasture and I have to resist the urge to just let them into it for fear they may get excited and charge through the fence again.  Although I think the fact that they're inside the no climb fence as well would prevent a clean get away for them.

Calf learning about electric fence.

Still hope to get them in the woods

I do still hope to ultimately get them into the woods and brush, to help clear it, but it's just going to take longer than I'd originally planned.  I'm going to have to be very confident that they know where home is if I'm to let them out  into a area that is only fenced with two strands of electricity.

We are also going to be working to teach them to come when called for a treat of sweet feed.  The calf should learn this fairly quickly, not sure how long the mother highland cow will be.  Ideally we want to be able to handle them both and especially the calf, want to train as an oxen.

A nice team of highland oxen

I have my work cut out for me